Thursday, 29 March 2018

Toxic

I completed The Adventures of Fatman: Toxic Revenge last night. It wasn't great. It's a fairly short adventure game with a few locations and a lot of backtracking. The interface is fairly simple, but it's full of obtuse puzzles and pixel hunting. There are objects that you have to click on twice to get the correct interaction, objects hidden within other objects, new (tiny) objects that appear when you revisit a location (and for no apparent reason). It does most of the things that are wrong with adventure games. It also doesn't automate the boring stuff - e.g., there's a place that you have to change into different clothes to enter. It's fine to make you go through the rigmarole the first time that you enter (it involves getting in your car, traveling to a specific location, changing clothes, getting back in your car and traveling back to the location that you want to visit...and then doing it all in reverse to change back and get on with the game), but subsequent times you enter they should just do it for you automatically. That kind of stuff is just no fun and serves to make the game longer and more boring. There are also plenty of situations where you have to do something wrong and restart before you know it was something that you should have been avoiding. Positives? It does let you restart on the same screen if you die (at least, it does on Easy mode!). It looks okay - not spectacularly, but enough like a comic. Some of the stuff might be funny (it wasn't to me, but I wasn't enjoying the game). It actually ran under Win 10. That's about it. I had to use a walkthrough to get through some of it, and quite frankly it still took too long. Happy to be moving on.

Next up on the randometer is...Sensible Golf! As you can probably tell by the name, this is golf reimagined by the Sensible Soccer folk. Worth a look.

...and there's something weird about my copy of Sensible Golf. For one, the mouse is completely knackered, so it takes ages of trial and error to actually navigate the menus and start a game. Once in the game it's all via keyboard, so I can actually play. The issue is that the computer player is completely rubbish. Normally that wouldn't be a good thing, but he's literally just hitting the ball a few centimetres each shot. Because in golf the player furthest back plays first, it means I don't get another shot after my first. I've got a screen open in the background with the computer still playing, and he's currently on par 90. Ah well, it was never going to be my favourite game anyway. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Ivan "Iron Man" Stewart's Super Off Road! Great.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Dino-bore

Yes, there wasn't much to 3-D Dinosaur adventure. It was pure old-school edutainment. There were a couple of 'games' included in it, but one was matching pictures of dinosaurs to their names, and the other was matching names of dinosaurs to their pictures. Yep. There wasn't even really any game element to it, as there's no score or anything, it just endlessly loops the questions over and over. To be fair to it, 3-D Dinosaur Adventure does have some really interesting information in it, and I'm sure I would have loved it as a kid when I was heavily into dinosaurs. Now, though...I'm not so sure. I don't even know if Max would like it because the presentation's so slow and clunky. One great thing about it is that it mentions Lewes (proudly highlighted in the image above)! Good old Gideon Mantell. I'm pretty sure that this will be the only game on the list that features my home town in any way, shape or form.

Next up on the randometer is...The Adventures of Fatman: Toxic Revenge! Never heard of it. It looks like a graphic adventure based on an extremely litigious rendering of Batman. Hopefully nothing to do with Tongue of the Fatman (shudder).

Monday, 26 March 2018

Atomi-No

And that'll do for Atomino. It's a simple (in terms of ruleset, not in terms of mastery) puzzle game about connecting atoms. Essentially, you place atoms on a grid. Each atom has 1-4 'arms' for making connections. Your mission is to create the required number of molecules by placing atoms until there are no more free 'arms' on your molecule. So, the simplest molecule would consist of two atoms with 1 arm each. These arms would join and you'd have a complete molecule. The twist, like all of these games, is that you're being supplied with random atoms each turn, and you have to place them against the clock to complete your molecules. It's actually a really neat twist on the falling block genre (which it kind of is). To mix things up a little, you also have different objectives on each level. Some are simple things like "create 4 molecules of at least 9 atoms each", while others switch the game on its head asking you to remove molecules or to create molecules that fit a specific shape. It's great fun, and if you're into puzzle games then I'd recommend it. For me, though...no.

Next up on the randometer is...3-D Dinosaur Adventure! Looks like an edutainment title, so not sure how much game there'll be.

In other news, I've also completed another mini on the PS3 - Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess. It's an extremely short game where you have to jump up a tower from platform to platform chasing a monster, and you have to double-jump into each monster to defeat it. There are only 5 levels, so it's easy enough to complete it in its most basic form. Of course, the point of the game is that you're supposed to score-attack it and try and maximise your combos before defeating the monster...but who has time for that? I've also finished off the main campaign of Doom 3. Two more level packs to go before it's done, though.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Sauron Victorious

I'm afraid to say that I lost the war for Middle Earth, and not just once, but on multiple occasions. Sauron's forces proved too strong and the lidded eye gazed unopposed over all of the lands. The War in Middle Earth is kind of a very early real-time strategy game. You control a bunch of armies on a large map of Middle Earth, moving them around to defend various locations as the forces of Sauron pour out to attack them. You start off only being able to control a few armies, but more and more become available as the game goes on. The game starts with Frodo, Sam and Pippin being hounded by the Nazghul. I don't think I ever managed to get them to safety. Every time, they'd be found and attacked by one of the Nazghul and that would be the end of them. Luckily, even if that happens it's not the end of the game. As long as you can intercept that Nazghul and reclaim the ring before they reach Mount Doom then you're okay. The evil forces win if they either conquer a number of key locations or they get the ring to Sauron. You win the battle if you get the ring to Mount Doom and destroy it or if you defeat Sauron himself. Needless to say, I didn't manage either of those things. I even watched a YouTube video of someone else winning the game, but I wasn't able to replicate it. Every time I wasn't able to defend my cities well enough and lost too many of them.

There are three main views to the game, a normal map view where you control individual armies, a zoomed out whole-map view where you can see the total battle field and which forces are available to you, and a zoomed in view where you can see individual troops walking across the screen. In this view, you're able to enter locations and find items or have encounters. For example, you can meet Treebeard and gather the ents to you, or you can find new weapons. I didn't find the items that useful (but maybe I should have tried them more?), but the extra armies that you can gain through encounters are very handy. It's a fun game, and I'm sure that I could win it with enough time and patience, I just don't have enough of either of those right now, so I'm going to ruthlessly cull it from the list.

Next up on the randometer is...Potatoman Seeks the Troof! Platforms a go-go.

...and that was quicker than I thought. Potatoman Seeks the Troof is an incredibly short game that I finished in about 20 minutes of my lunch break. It's in a similar vein to many post-Super Meat Boy indie retro platformers where there are a lot of instant-death spikes and jumping patterns that have to be learned. Like many of those games, too, though, you only go back a short distance on death so it only takes you seconds to try it again. There were a couple of frustrating sections, but progress was pretty constant. Graphically, it's retro but hugely endearing with chunky, cute sprites and glorious chiptunes blaring at you. There are modern edges to the graphics, such as smart layering in the background and a great 3D effect when you die. It's annoyingly random in places - I made it through a flock of birds in one playthrough only to be killed by the monkeys following them, whereas on subsequent playthroughs I got murdered about 50 times by the birds, but made it through the monkeys without breaking a sweat. It's a great fun game, though, full of joie de vivre shining through it, and there's a lovely meta ending. A surprising breath of fresh air.

Next up on the randometer is...Atomino. Looks like a puzzle game based on atoms. Should be another quick one.

Going back to the subject of ruthless culling, I've also been through a few PS3 games recently. First up on the list is Infamous, which I completed at the weekend. This was my first AAA PS3 game in a while, and it was pretty cool. I'm not going to bother with a full background here, but essentially you're a guy who is tricked into activating a device in the middle of a city, destroying half of it and gaining super-electric powers in the process. You then spend the game travelling through the parts of the city beating up bad guys, doing good deeds and gaining powers as you search for the person who gave you the device in the first place. The graphics and gameplay are great, but it does get a bit monotonous as you beat up the same bad guys over and over again and do the same identikit missions in different parts of the city. It's held together by a central story that progresses pretty well with a Twisty McTwist at the end. I was actually surprised just how open they left it at the end. I guess they were very, very confident that they'd be making a second game, and hopefully I'll get around to playing it a few years down the line... I've also completed a couple of Minis. First is a game called Flying Hamster. This is a fun little
cartoon-style shoot-em-up that the kids and I have all enjoyed playing. It has beautiful graphics and easy gameplay, so it's been very easy for them to get into it. As a bonus, you can start from the last stage that you got to with a full set of continues, so you're pretty much guaranteed progress if you just keep playing it. Great fun. Second was Tiny Hawk. Great name. It's a very basic platform game with 32 short levels. You play a little skater dude who zips around, jumping, grinding and avoiding obstacles as he makes his way to the exit. Not much more to say, it was fun and very short, which is a great combination in my book. I'm also bailing on a couple of PS3 games. I Must Run is another Mini and, as you can probably guess from the name, is an endless runner. Actually, it's apparently not endless, as there is some kind of story, but I'm never going to see the end. The problem is, that if you die then you go right back to the beginning of the game, and I just don't have the time to be playing the whole thing every time I die. If there'd been save points at each stage then I may have seen it out, but no. Otherwise, it's a really fun game. I just don't have time for it. I'm also calling it quits on Ricochet HD. This is at heart a Breakout clone, but taken to crazy extremes. There's no simple wall of bricks here, instead you have an HR Giger-inspired moving mass of spikes and balls that makes it really hard to see what you're trying to hit and to actually hit it. Of course, there are numerous power ups and different ships (bats) and balls that you can unlock, but I'd had enough of it after just two levels. Onwards!

Friday, 16 March 2018

Slain

I finished up Monster Slayers last night. As I mentioned, I'd already completed it with about half of the characters (I think there are 12 in all), so it was just a case of playing through with the others. Monster Slayers is a living card game where you start with a small deck (dependent on class) and then refine it as you play the game by adding some cards and removing others. It pays a heavy debt of gratitude to Dream Quest than I played a while back. You have a basic level layout and you move it around it open up new pathways by visiting locations and defeating opponents. That means you have some choice over the order you do things, but ultimately you're going to be visiting every node on the grid anyway to maximise your chances of progressing through the game. There are three 'levels' per run, but you're essentially doing the same thing in each, the only difference being that the monsters get harder and you get help in the form of companions (that add time-limited abilities) that grow stronger as you progress. As you fight, you also gain experience that allows you to level up, gaining more hitpoints and unlocking bonuses like new cards, a larger hand size, or more action points, etc. The aim of each fight is to bring the opponent's hitpoints down to 0, while keeping yours as high as possible. You don't heal (much) between fights, so you really do want to be as efficient as possible in each fight. You begin with a set of basic attack cards and a few others, and upgrade and remix your cards as you progress. Cards basically have two costs, either Action Points or Magic Points, with different classes specialising in different cards. Warriors will have AP-dependent high damage attacks, mages will have MP-dependent spells, rogues have high-speed moves - low-power attacks that allow you to draw another card after playing them, so chaining lots of attacks together, priests can heal, archers have high-precision critical attacks, and so on. There's a lot of variety in their card sets, and merchants allow you to buy new cards that enable you to blur the lines a bit, tailoring your deck in a way that suits you. There are a lot of different cards and a lot of variety, so no two classes feel the same. I'm a big fan of card games, and this definitely scratched an itch. The current darling on the card game scene is Slay the Spire, which I haven't tried yet...one day. For now, though, this was great fun, and I'd recommend it to anybody. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Las Vegas Tycoon! Hmm, I'm not the biggest fan of tycoon games, but I'll give it a go.

...And, you know what? I'm done with Las Vegas Tycoon (or Vegas: Make it Big, as it's known over here). I had a quick go over lunch but it's really not my cup of tea. It's the type of hardcore, micro-management sim that chills my blood. You build a casino, it starts breaking down. You build a mechanic station. You then need to tell the mechanic where you want him to go... Ugg, no. It did look lovely with all its zoomy spinny roundy-ness, and I did like the fact you could go into your casinos and fill them with individual tables, etc. to make punters happy (though with even more micro management), and the fact you could theme your casino in different ways, like ancient Greek (just like the real Vegas!!), but it's just not for me. The subject matter doesn't appeal (I hated the real Vegas) and the bad-menu micro-management just killed it. I'm sure it's a great game if you like that kind of thing, but for me...no, sorry.

Next up on the randometer is...Space Bucks! Really?!?! Another management game. Ah well, something for the weekend.

And, I'm sure you'll all be as upset as I was to discover that Space Bucks is an early Windows game and it doesn't seem to run on modern systems. Ah well, can't say I'm that bothered. Let's quickly skip ahead before anyone tries to get me to emulate Win 95 and get it running there.

Next up on the randometer is...J.R.R. Tolkien's War in Middle Earth! No idea what this will be like. Sounds slightly strategy-ish.

In other news, I've also been playing a bit more of Infamous on the PS3, and I think I'm close to the end there. It's the first major PS3 game I've played in ages, and it's been quite fun. Doom 3 has taken a bit of a back seat, but I'll get back to it soon.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Thunderdome

I polished off God of Thunder over lunch today. Things have been a little slow recently what with DIY and work taking over most of my time, so it's good to get a game finished, even if it is just a little indie number. God of Thunder is actually a pretty fun little arcade/puzzle game. You wander around the world in a zelda-stylee, visiting towns and talking to the good citizens, while throwing your trusty hammer at any passing monsters (of which there are many). The world itself is fairly standard, with broken bridges that need to be fixed before you can proceed, caves to pop into and out of the other side, and the usual tropes. The trick of this game, though, is that a great proportion of those screens contain puzzles that must be solved before you can proceed. There are two main types - switch puzzles, and sliding block puzzles, and they're both explored pretty thoroughly. For instance, with the switch puzzles, you can either run into switches to flick them, or hit them with your hammer. Your hammer is obviously the magical Mjolnir (have I not mentioned that you play Thor, trying to defeat Loki?), so whenever you throw it, it returns to you. This leads to some tricky timing puzzles where you have to throw out your hammer then run through half a blockage and as your hammer flies back and hits the switch on its way you can run past the final part. It keeps things challenging and head-scratchy. With the sliding blocks, they're sometimes mazes, but they're more often of the type where an invulnerable enemy will be firing at you, and you need to push blocks to form a barrier between you and them so you can pass safely. Again, some of them are pretty fiendish with multiple blocks and bad guys. There's also a more arcade themed version of those, too, where you have boulders rather than blocks. These roll along in the direction that you push them, so you sometimes have to set them off then run along beside them as a moving wall to stay safe behind, and other times you might have to push it in one direction, then run around beside it and push it in another direction down a different path to keep you safe. It's only a simple thing, but it was all pretty polished and fun. The game itself is split into three worlds, with a boss fight at the end of each one. None of them are too hard once you work out their attack patterns (I don't think I died on any of them), but they're nice bookends to each chapter. On the subject of dying, you have infinite lives in the game, and when you die you just begin the screen you were on again, so as long as you can solve the puzzles then there's an inevitability that you'll progress through to the end. I wouldn't count it as an amazing hidden gem or anything, but it was a perfectly solid and enjoyable little game.

Next up on the randometer is...Monster Slayers! Ha, that's interesting. I've actually been playing this a little bit on and off for a while now and have already completed it with a few characters. I guess I'll try and polish off the rest of them.

In other news, the moment finally came when Sony announced that from next year they're no longer going to include PS3 games in Plus. You'll still keep the games you have for now (as long as you continue to pay for them), but essentially I'll be paying for games every month that I can't play, so it's time I doubled down on getting through some PS3 games. On that note (although not actually on Plus), I did complete Diggs Nightcrawler with the kids at the weekend. It's a Wonderbook game, which is essentially an AR device where you have a physical book on the floor in your living room, and this is replaced on-screen with graphics from the game. This means that you can interact physically with the book - turning it, shaking it, hitting it - to see things change on screen. It works really well, and the kids love it. There's a little hint of magic about it, and it does feel really physical as you turn the book around to see behind objects on-screen or play whack-a-mole with creatures popping up from the pages. We've got a Walking with Dinosaurs one, too, that we tried a while back but didn't get as far into. My only complaint about the game is that it was really short, but that shouldn't be such an issue when I've got such a big backlog!